Old Habits…

Last week at a family dinner my grandfather (henceforth known as Bapak) handed my 10 year old cousin his mobile and asked him to find some text messages. Bapak swore he had received two that morning but because he didn’t open them immediately they had disappeared. My cousin finds twelve-times-tables difficult but he is an expert at technology. After about 15 seconds of navigating the phone, my cousin announced that there were no unread text messages and Bapak must have accidentally deleted them. This was closely followed by protests from Bapak. 

“I didn’t delete them! I’m not that old! The phone does it by itself. It’s happened before. It just deletes them automatically if I don’t open them straight away. It’s a stupidphone not a smartphone!”

After everyone at the table had a go at trying to find the lost messages it was decided that they must have been accidentally deleted or there hadn’t been any in the first place. Bapak looked slightly perplexed but eventually started laughing.

“Maybe I am that old.”

My grandparents watching television
My grandparents watching television

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that less than half of Australian aged 65 years and over are regular internet users. They cite that paying bills or banking online are the most predominant uses of the internet by senior Australians, followed closely by accessing government websites. Pew Research provides many reasons for why the elderly partake in much less internet use such as:

  • Physical challenges
  • Paranoia about new technology and
  • Being afraid of difficult to use new technology

None of these reasons apply to Bapak. He is mentally and physically very healthy, he is very open to technology that he considers improves his life (despite the aforementioned outburst about stupidphones), and if he gets shown how to do something he can usually do it on his own afterwards. By that logic he should be a seasoned internet user, surfing the web for Jamie Oliver recipes and cat videos. However he only accesses the internet at most once a day to check his email and maybe look at a news site. He never goes over his internet plan that includes 5GB a month of data, while my family recently upgraded to unlimited after regularly exceeding our 200GB a month plan.

When I asked him if the internet was important to him his immediate answer was “No. It’s convenient but by no means is it a big part of my life.”

So it’s probably not a surprise that Bapak wasn’t very affected by the news that the NBN was not yet available in his area.

“I would much rather live my life around my family than around the computer anyway.”

The Media Wherezone

The consumption of media has historically been a social undertaking, from families crowding around impressive free-standing wooden radios in the 1920s, to extended family and friends jamming themselves into tiny living rooms to bask in the glow of the first televisions in the 1950s. Today media is largely inescapable, and with the introduction of portable media devices such as smartphones and tablets the majority of us are never without a form of digital media constantly connecting us to other people. Isn’t it ironic then that in some respects media is now less social and more isolating than ever?

Take my brothers interaction with media for example. Bradley and Matthew are twins, which means my parents don’t feel as bad about continuing to make them share a room at 15. Their room is small, always a mess, and lacking in any decor that identifies it as a loved space. However in the middle of the chaos, beside the desk covered in unfinished homework and chocolate wrappers, is a flat screen 40-inch hi-def television. Connected to this is a PlayStation, a Wii and an X-box. On any given day a couple of laptops, a mobile phone or two, an iPod or a Nintendo DS could be lying on the floor. 

They both spend the majority of their time at home together in that room. But rarely speak to each other. If Matthew is playing FIFA on the X-box then chances are Bradley’s watching YouTube on his laptop. If Bradley’s playing a game on his iPod then Matthew’s probably…still playing FIFA actually. That boy spends most of his life controlling pixels in the shape of men to kick other pixels in the shape of soccer balls. Sometimes they even Facebook message each other from different devices.

I would call that social not-working.

…I am actually really proud of that pun…